Attorney General v Paperlink Ltd

JurisdictionIreland
CourtHigh Court
Judgment Date01 January 1984
Date01 January 1984
(H.C.)
Attorney General
and
Paperlink Ltd

Monopoly - Statutory monopoly in respect of the conveying of "letters" -Private courier service - Minister seeking an injunction - Whether defendant's trading in breach of the monopoly - Meaning of "letters" -Whether relevant provisions unconstitutional -Post Office Act, 1908 (c. 48), s. 34. Attorney General - Company operating in breach of a statutory monopoly - Attorney General, acting as guardian of public rights, seeking an injunction - Whether proceedings misconceived. Constitution - Statutory monopoly in respect of the conveying of "letters" - Whether violative of personal and property rights - Right to communicate - Right to earn a livelihood - Whether such a right a personal or a property right -Whether infringed - Interpretation - Purposive or literal approach - Whether court precluded from considering the principles of social policy -Onus of proof - Constitution of Ireland, 1937, Arts. 38, 40.3.1, 40.3.2, 45.3.1 - Post Office Act, 1908. Evidence - Challenge to the constitutionality of legislation conferring statutory monopoly on Post Office - Evidence as to the alleged inefficiency in the administration of the postal service - Whether admissible.

The Post Office Act, 1908, s. 34(2), as amended by the Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1924, gives the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs a monopoly of conveying letters and of providing related services. The defendants, a company and its directors, began to operate a courier service in Dublin in 1981. The plaintiffs sought a declaration and injunction in support of the state postal monopoly, which they contended had been breached by the defendants. The Attorney General sued as guardian of public rights. The defendants denied that they were engaged in conveying letters; alleged that their operation was a private messenger service permissible under the 1908 Act; and contested the right of the Attorney General to seek an injunction when the Act provided a summary criminal remedy. In a counterclaim the 2nd, 3rd and 4th-named defendants, the directors currently holding office, asserted that the 1908 Act was unconstitutional because it infringed the right of citizens to communicate freely (an alleged personal right due for protection under Article 40.3.1 or Article 40.6.1), as well as their right to earn a livelihood (an alleged personal or property right). Held by Costello J., granting the injunction and declaration sought by the plaintiffs and dismissing the...

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